First published in an anthology called Wicked Carnival, here is my favorite Halloween story.
THE CAT LADY DOES HALLOWEEN
By Elizabeth Blue
As soon as darkness fell, the hordes of trick or treaters poured forth from their houses, dressed as witches and ghosts, ninjas and pirates. In the Cat Lady’s neighborhood, there were many children, but most of them didn’t dare approach her door.
She always bought candy for them anyway, hoping they would come. For years, Halloween came and went, and the Cat Lady was left with a full bowl of candy, which she always threw out. It was nothing she would eat – chocolate bars and peanut butter cups. She bought these things because she knew it was what the children liked. It was the same sort of stuff she had liked as a child so long ago.
She never kept chocolate in the house anymore. Cats couldn’t have chocolate, and the Cat Lady, not wanting to offend, never ate chocolate in front of her babies.
But she bought other candy for the cats. They loved it. Candy corn, chopped up into tiny pieces, and taffy, which she held in her hand for the cats to lick. It was a time-consuming task to give all twenty-five cats a turn, but the Cat Lady didn’t mind. She felt it was their right, as cats, to have a treat on their favorite holiday.
This year, like each year before, the Cat Lady sat on her porch with the bowl of candy beside her black, wrought iron rocker. She watched the children as they passed by her house. She knew why they didn’t stop. She looked scary to them, her big, brick house with its dark windows as her backdrop, the one light on the porch illuminating features she had come to think of as gaunt. But she hoped, despite the appearance, just once someone would come.
Bijou sat in her lap, which only added to the fearsome scene. Bijou was a big, black cat, the largest she had. He weighed a little over twenty pounds. His emerald green eyes glowed, she hoped, whenever someone glanced their way.
As much as she wanted the children to come take her candy, she didn’t want all of them. Only those worthy, brave enough to come up her walk. So she did nothing to make herself or her house look friendly. Halloween wasn’t about looking friendly.
Soon after the grandfather clock inside the house chimed eight, the Cat Lady stood, preparing to go back inside and dump out the candy, having given away not a single piece. Before she reached the door, the glow of two flashlights came around the corner. She held her breath and stroked Bijou. Bijou purred and looked out into the night. The Cat Lady’s pulse quickened as the flashlights, followed by two older children, stopped in front of her house. She heard whispers. Bijou tensed in her arms. She sat back in her rocker, hoping the children would decide to come get some candy from her.
A moment later, the two children, boys she noticed, turned from the street and started up her sidewalk. The Cat Lady smiled.
They were much older than they had looked from the street. Teenagers. Her smile faded when she saw neither of them wore a costume.
They walked slowly, avoiding her stare.
Bijou growled, and the Cat Lady felt the vibration of it in her lap.
“Hush, Bijou,” she whispered to him.
He grumbled at her and shifted in her lap. Hillberry, who had been sitting in the shadows all evening on the outer windowsill hissed. Little Snuggly stood up in the corner of the porch, aroused from her nap, and she arched her back and reached out both front paws, stretching her whole body. Her claws poked out, and she scraped them on the cement porch as she drew her legs back in, tucked them under herself and lay back down, eyeing the teenagers as they walked up the steps. Gingerfat, who lay under the rocker, tail tucked in for safety, meowed a greeting to the children.
“What are you two supposed to be?” asked the Cat Lady.
They stopped halfway up the steps of the porch.
“We’re, uh, we’re vampires,” the boy on the left replied.
“I see. Vampires. You don’t look like vampires to me,” said the Cat Lady. Gingerfat meowed in agreement.
The boy on the right said, “Well, vampires look different nowadays. We’ve got to fit in, you know, with regular society.” He nudged the boy on the left with his elbow.
The boy on the left nodded. “Yeah, you can’t just go around wearing a cape and a black suit anymore.”
Little idiots, the Cat Lady thought. “Bijou, I think the boys are trying to frighten us!” She laughed.
Bijou licked his lips as if he had just finished a tasty meal. Or was anticipating one.
“Well, it’s Halloween, isn’t it?” said the boy on the left.
“Yeah. Maybe you should be afraid,” said the boy on the right. “Our kind are out all over the place tonight. It’s probably not a good idea for you to be out here with your cats and all.”
“Oh?” said the Cat Lady.
“Yep,” said the boy on the right.
She thought he was definitely the uglier of the two. She wondered what had happened to all the polite boys in the world. Children had manners when she was growing up.
“Well, did you come here for something, Vampires?”
“Oh, yeah. Trick or treat,” said the boy on the left.
“Trick or treat,” said the boy on the right.
The Cat Lady looked at them for a moment, then said, “I didn’t think Vampires could eat candy.”
“That’s just a myth,” said the boy on the right.
“I see.” She stood up and placed Bijou on the porch. “Wait here. I have something special in the house, better than this candy out here. Something a couple of Vampires like you might enjoy.”
She went to the door. “Mind the cats. They don’t take kindly to Vampires, and they’ve done their own share of blood sucking.” She snickered as she went into the house. Part of her hoped she would come back to the porch to find the boys shredded to bits, but she also hoped she would have the opportunity to try out her new Halloween cookie recipe on them.
The little smart-asses, she thought. Not only did it annoy her that teenagers had the audacity to trick or treat, but they hadn’t even bothered to put on a costume! They were definitely not candy-worthy. But cookie-worthy, they were. She went to the stove and carefully took several cookies from the cookie sheet, taking care not to break off any of the black tails, heads or paws. She placed them into two plastic bags and sealed them.
She returned to the porch to find the boys standing at the base of the steps. The cats outside had moved to the edge of the top step, sitting side by side, glaring at the boys.
“What good cats I have, don’t you think, Vampires?
The boys nodded.
She handed each of them a plastic bag with cookies. “Enjoy!” she said.
The boys backed away, eyeing their treats with disdain, then they turned away more quickly than they had come.
When she couldn’t see their flashlights anymore, the Cat Lady held the front door open and called the cats inside. She carried her bowl of candy and tossed it all in the trash.
She promptly went to bed after reading the cats their bedtime story because she wanted to be up early the next morning.
She slept well, kept warm in her bed by cats snuggled against her legs and feet, and she awoke refreshed at 7:30. When the grandfather clock chimed eight times she went to her front window and looked out at the children waiting for the high school bus.
Three, four, five of them, she counted. She clapped her hands together, tickled to find two children missing from the group. She went to the kitchen, opened her recipe book and marked the Halloween Cookie recipe a success.